Sagar received his Bachelor’s degree in business finance and worked in the financial industry prior to attending law school. After trying several online learning platforms and even completing the early stages of Dev Bootcamp’s Phase 0, Sagar shifted gears and started at CodeUnion, the online programming bootcamp run by Jesse Farmer, John Davidson and Tanner Welsh. Sagar is currently a practicing attorney and tells us about his experience at CodeUnion’s remote Fundamentals of Web Development workshop.
Tell us what you were up to before you started CodeUnion.
After working in the financial industry for about a year and a half, I’ve been a practicing attorney for a little over five years now. My career path over the last five years has been focused heavily on the technology space. I’ve gotten to work with CTOs and technology implementations and that attracted me to programming.
What is your motivation for doing a bootcamp?
I’ve always enjoyed building basic web applications using Wordpress or other platforms so the next logical step was to learn programming so I could build from the ground up. I’d tried a few online resources but in order to take what I had learned to the next level, I needed a support group (i.e., teachers and students) that I could bounce ideas and questions off of to really solidify what I had learned.
Did you have a technical background before you started looking for bootcamps?
I had novice-level experience in both HTML and CSS and prior to CodeUnion, I’d completed Tealeaf Academy’s introductory course and dabbled in a few classes provided by both Codecademy and Treehouse.
What was your experience with Tealeaf?
I enjoyed Tealeaf and it was a great introduction into Ruby. The reason I didn’t continue on was because the model wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Tealeaf is geared towards working professionals who want a part-time option to learn basic web development skills. The flow of the workshop was a bit too quick for me (introductory course was 4 weeks long) and I realized I needed more teacher and student interaction to really internalize what I was learning.
Since you have experience with Tealeaf and now CodeUnion, what are the main differences between the two?
If I had to compare the two programs, I would say Tealeaf is similar to Bloc or a more interactive version of Treehouse, whereas CodeUnion is similar to an in-class bootcamp (e.g., Dev Bootcamp).
Why did you decide to do a part-time, online program instead of a full-time, in-person boot camp?
My decision didn’t necessarily come down to full-time vs. part-time. It was more about where I thought I would learn the most from experienced teachers who were passionate about teaching. I eventually landed on CodeUnion because of the quality of their teachers. Jesse Farmer is a co-founder of Dev Bootcamp and Tanner Welsh co-founded Dev Bootcamp New York. There are relatively few bootcamps where students have the ability to learn straight from those people passionate enough to start their own schools. Jesse has a vested interest in the success of CodeUnion and it’s apparent how much he enjoys teaching. The enthusiasm Jesse, Tanner, and Zee Spencer have for teaching is what keeps students motivated.
Have you kept your job as a lawyer while you do CodeUnion?
I’ve kept my full-time job as an attorney while attending CodeUnion. After a 10 hour work day, I dedicate a few hours every night to CodeUnion and then most of my weekend hours. It’s not easy but it’s doable and enjoyable.
What was the application process like at CodeUnion? Were there technical requirements to being accepted?
The interview process was a bit more relaxed than I expected and it was more Q&A from both sides of the table.
Round one was an introduction with one of CodeUnion’s teachers and I suspect topics vary from interviewee to interviewee. It was a chance for me to ask any questions I had about CodeUnion.
In Round two, Jesse answered any additional questions I had, he asked me about my long-term goals and he set expectations. There was a small technical portion to the interview, primarily designed to give interviewees a picture of how CodeUnion approaches teaching and whether CodeUnion believes that the interviewee can have a productive back-and-forth with the teacher.
The interview was a great way for me to feel comfortable with CodeUnion and get a glimpse into how I would be learning. It wasn’t as formal as Dev Bootcamp or Hack Reactor but it also wasn’t as easy as simply signing up like Tealeaf or Bloc.
Was there a job guarantee or job support promised?
CodeUnion’s approach is a bit different from the usual developer bootcamp suspects. The school doesn’t set incredibly high expectations by promising six figure salaries and an exorbitant placement rate, which I suspect a lot of bootcamp attendees get mesmerized by. I’m not sure whether that might be a product of CodeUnion’s newness, but I don’t get the feeling that CodeUnion is just trying to collect a check and then not care where their students landed (as I did with other developer bootcamps).
How many people are in your cohort?
I believe there are about 9 or 10 students in the fundamentals workshop and more students in the other workshops. We use an application called Slack to communicate when not attending a live web-conference session and there’s a lot of opportunity for one-on-one time with teachers and students.
You’re in the first course- how many are there in total?
I’m in the fourth week of the fundamentals workshop. There are three workshops that last 8 weeks each:
- Fundamentals of Web Development
- Rails, TDD, and Professional Engineering
- Topics in Computer Science
In addition to the above, there is a 4-week SQL Deep-Dive & Metrics workshop.
What are you learning in this Fundamentals workshop?
That’s the high-level view of what we’ve done to date but there are so many topics that we’ve covered in addition to those mentioned that just four weeks in, I already feel comfortable in deploying a basic web application.
Jesse and the team focus on teaching topics that help a student’s long-term success. In addition to learning code, they do a great job of teaching students how to orient themselves in real-world situations.
What are the CodeUnion the instructors like?
Tanner is the official teacher of the Fundamentals workshop. He conducts the three weekly web-conference sessions and he has a real knack for teaching complex topics to novice learners. In addition to Tanner, we’re given regular answers to any questions we may have through Slack from either Jesse or Zee (or anyone else who is in the community).
For every sprint, we have a set number of exercises and projects we’re required to finish. Once we’ve made small iterations to each of the projects, we’re encouraged to submit those projects to GitHub for feedback requests. Feedback is provided by either Jesse or Tanner in the form of suggestions on best practices, fixing bugs, or any other questions we have.
The teachers have a quick response time and there hasn’t been a time where I felt stuck and no one was around to answer my question. The experience thus far has been excellent.
You said that he does three webcasts each week. What are those webcasts like?
The webcasts are typically 2 hours long but can go longer depending on the topic. They’re absolutely interactive and students have the opportunity to not only ask questions but also screen share so we can collectively conduct code reviews (we use an application called Zoom for webcasts, not Google Hangouts).
Last week Tanner taught us about classes and objects during the Tuesday session; there was an optional Q&A session on Thursday; and during our Saturday session, we built an application of the cohorts choosing.
Are there any time zone issues? You’re based in New York, but CodeUnion is in San Francisco.
I’m probably the luckiest because, being on the East Coast, I can do later times. But we do have students in San Francisco and I believe a student in the Midwest. We haven’t had any issues in regards to scheduling. Classes usually start between 7:00 and 9:00 pm East Coast time but times vary by cohort.
Session times are pre-determined based on the collective cohort’s schedule. At the outset, a document is distributed where students have the opportunity to choose times that work for them and based on that, Tanner selects the times that work for the group.
How many hours a week are you spending on CodeUnion?
Personally I would say I spend somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week dedicated to learning to code but hours vary by student.
That’s a lot of hours! Would you recommend that people keep a full-time job when they do CodeUnion?
It really depends on each student’s individual circumstances. Obviously, the types of student that attend CodeUnion are those that want to work full-time or don’t want to put their lives on hold. I’m probably pushing the limits but I haven’t really been burned out. I really enjoy programming so I think it comes down to your passion for it. If you really enjoy it, you’re not going to get burned out. My plan is to tackle the first workshop on a part-time basis, then revisit how I want to proceed for the next workshop.
How much interaction do you have with other students?
The only face time that I get with students is in our three web-conference sessions each week; however, students communicate regularly through Slack. The opportunity for so much teacher and student interaction is what makes it similar to an in-person bootcamp, rather than an online course.
I believe the second workshop relies more on team projects and teamwork.
Do you feel like the curriculum is personalized to your needs?
CodeUnion obviously has a set curriculum like any other school. We’re required to learn the fundamentals; however, to the extent that there’s something that I want to explore outside the curriculum, all the teachers have been open to it.
Like I said, the Saturday session is a time for us to build one application of the cohort’s choosing. That’s given us the chance to really explore topics that may not have been covered previously.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you wanted to add about CodeUnion?
If you’re choosing between bootcamps, your decision shouldn’t be motivated by the bootcamp’s statistics and placement rates. I firmly believe that, as with anything in life, you get what you put in. Your choice should come down to what motivates you and which school has the teachers that will support you throughout the process.